Sale may be off, but membership is improving

What do you do when it turns out a wealthy investor can't actually come up with $174.5 million as promised?

If you're Beverly Ray Parkhurst, who owns the landmark Balboa Bay Club and Resort in Newport Beach, you call off your planned sale of the company to Winston Chung of Hong Kong and entertain other offers, as the Times reported Tuesday.

And with your financials improving, you may decide to hold off on a sale altogether for now, a top club official said.

Chung, a battery and electric-vehicle entrepreneur, attracted considerable attention over the last two years by investing in Southern California specialty-vehicle makers and promising to establish a green transportation industry in the Southland.

But his most ambitious idea — to build $5 billion worth of motor homes in Riverside for sale in China — has been on hold for a year because Chinese regulators haven't blessed the deal. He's also had a bitter legal falling out with former business partners in Hong Kong.

And after putting down millions of dollars in down payments on the Balboa Bay Club, its sister Newport Beach Country Club and a nearby Newport Harbor estate once owned by Nicolas Cage, Chung said he was unable to get money out of China to complete those transactions.

After a sharp downturn in Balboa Bay Club business in 2007 and 2008, corporate meeting bookings are up nicely, said David Wooten, chief executive of International Bay Clubs Inc., the parent of the yacht and country clubs.

Membership, which had been declining, is now "stabilized and coming back," Wooten said Tuesday.

While owner Parkhurst will evaluate serious bids for the company, he added, she may decide to delay a sale in the belief the company's finances will continue to improve, making it worth more.

"Adding $1 million to the bottom line would mean adding $10 million to the [company's] value," he said.

This story was reported by Times Staff Writer E. Scott Reckard.

Twitter: @LATimes

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